Voices of the Peninsula: Searching for solutions to K-Beach flooding

  • By Dave Yragui
  • Wednesday, July 16, 2014 5:12pm
  • Opinion

I have been a member of this community for 34 years. My wife and I raised our kids here and are now grandparents. We have run our plumbing and heating business here for 33 years and have been in service to the community. We are honest and hardworking.

We bought a homestead property south of Kalifonsky Beach Road in 1999 and more acreage ten years ago. I have excavated well over six miles of trenches throughout the entire property. The shallowest depth at which we encountered water was at nine feet. The water table at our ranch (homestead) was at eleven feet for over twelve years. Right now our water table is at the surface. There is no capacity for more water as the coming rainy season of August, September and October approaches. In essence, if the weather patterns hold true to last year and the year before, we (meaning the whole Kalifonsky Beach community to the south and east of K-Beach Road) are in for major flooding.

Last year I hired a professional hydrologist with many years of experience in Alaska. I asked him to come down and explain what was happening and to help us find solutions. We spent a lot of time discussing solutions, and the pros and cons to each. The main solution was to create a ten-foot-wide, two-foot-deep swale on the section line easement described as Seventh Street. This is a section line easement that has very little utilities except for two residential lines at the northern most portion. We are not proposing to drain the wetlands, though we have been accused of this numerous times by borough administrators. What we want to do is redirect the surface water that flooded everyone last year to the inlet, via the beaver ponds at Eider Road. This was the natural drainage for this wetland complex for years and years, until it became plugged and nonfunctional. We do not know what happened to cause the lack of drainage other than natural causes. What we do know is that if nothing is done, more people will flood this year than last year. This drainage that we are proposing should help immensely with the flooding problems experienced on Gaswell Road, the Poppy Lane area and the Murwood Subdivision area.

A partial solution to flooding in other areas is installing culverts at the correct grade on Patrick, Eastway, Buoy, Karluk, Boretide, Ebbtide (to only name a few) and numerous driveways throughout the area that have no culverts, which are required by borough statutes.

We excavated with a borough permit, during last fall’s flooding, from the gas lines to the east end of Trawling Street last fall. This ditch moved tens of millions of gallons, if not hundreds of millions of gallons, of water away from residential neighborhoods. This ditch needs to be enlarged and maintained.

An example of another partial solution to the problem is looking at Buoy Street drainage. The grade of Buoy Street from the east end to K-Beach Road is approximately 9.84 feet which equates from 0.14 percent grade. There is plenty of grade for water to flow if the ditches were maintained. We believe it is in the best interest of the borough that a drainage engineer be hired to help facilitate drainage in all areas affected by the flooding.

The Borough administration has stated that this is not a man-made problem but when we have asked for assistance, we have been met with nothing but resistance. This may be a second class borough but I think the people who live here are first class. We deserve to be treated fairly and with honesty. We are not interested in throwing stones and pointing fingers. We are interested in finding solutions. I offered to dig the Seventh Street ditch last year to prevent flooding. My offer was rejected. I tried to warn people of the impending flood, but for the most part was met with disbelief or confusion.

I did not file a lawsuit against the borough. I hired an attorney because I believe the inaction we have experienced will ultimately result in the decimation of hundreds of homes. We believe a class action lawsuit may be the only thing that will motivate this administration into fulfilling their obligations of being in service to the taxpayers. We expect the borough administration to help find and administrate a solution to this problem; one that does not take “six to ten years of planning,” but one that is based on the disaster declared last fall. The land in this area has been developed and lived on for years. Plats and roads have been approved by the borough, taxes have been collected, and residents deserve to have honest and open dialogue with the borough. This legal remedy is not our first choice. This is a last resort due to the unwillingness of the administration to act timely.

Why is it that the emergency management department jumped all over the Funny River Fire with all resources available, which incidentally was a good thing and saved a lot of property, but would not react to the flooding problems last year and appears to have the same mindset in regard to the impending flooding this year, which will decimate, as mentioned before, hundreds of homes. Hundreds of trees are dying on borough and private land due to the high water table. Some of these trees are 50-foot white spruce that have never been inundated with this much water. It is time to pull together as a community and fix the problem. Otherwise, communities on K-Beach, Gaswell Road, Poppy Lane, Murwood Subdivision, and our neighborhood may suffer significant damage. If the borough cannot help, then why are we paying taxes for emergency management? We are looking for positive solutions that will help everyone. If you have one, please get in touch with me. We have offered solutions. If the borough has a better plan, we would appreciate hearing from them.

We have about one and one half months to act. Please help yourselves and your neighbors and push for a solution. It will only be by the grace of God and positive solutions that we will overcome these problems.

Dave Yragui lives in the Kalifornsky Beach area.

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